Thursday, September 27, 2007

Our Home

When I got old enough to start dreaming about having a house of my own, the song by Crosby Stills Nash and Young always seemed like the perfect house and by extension of that, the perfect life that I wanted.

I'll light the fire, while you place the flowers
In the vase that you bought today.
Staring at the fire for hours and hours,
While I listen to you play your love songs
All night long for me, only for me.

Our house, is a very, very, very fine house.
With two cats in the yard,
Life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy 'cause of you.

Come to me now, and rest your head for just five minutes,
Everything is done.
Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated
By the evening sunshine through them,
Fiery gems for you, only for you.

Our house, is a very, very, very fine house.
With two cats in the yard,
Life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy 'cause of you.

Although it's a little bit 1950's housewife-ish, it painted for me a house that was warm, cozy and full of love. Just what a 19 year old dreamed life would be like when she grew up and found her perfect man.

It's 12 years on and I have found grown up, found the perfect man and until now, lived in a house that seemed perfect up till about 3 months ago. When we bought our flat, we knew that it was going to be on the small side, seeing that 2 bedrooms were converted into our bedroom suite. We didn't mind it all that much because we thought that the house was temporary and at most, we'd have one kid in it. Needless to say, like all good plans, they get foiled. We never dreamed that we would have twins and the paraphenalia that comes with having twins including another person living in the house with us. As a result, it's been very tight quarters, so much so that on occasion, I've felt that my space has been intruded upon. You come to this conclusion very quickly when you're still suffering from post-natal blues and realise that your house is so small and filled with people you don't necessarily want in your face all the time that you have to go down to the playground to have a good sob, much to the chagrin of all the neighbours.

The logical conclusion therefore is that we need a bigger house. As two very poor government servants, we cannot afford to just purchase another crib just because we've outgrown our flat. So, come Saturday, we move in with my in-laws, which fills me with a great amount of hesitation. To top of all off, everytime I think about moving out from this house, my heart just shatters that tiny bit more.

I know it's something that needs to be done. I know I have to leave the house I love because of the children that I love. But that doesn't stop me from sitting here, slightly hyperventilating at the prospect of such a change. There have been tears and there will be more to come because I am a sentimental person and this house has held our memories and secrets well. It is this house that we came home to immediately after our honeymoon. It is here where we learnt how to be husband and wife, where we fought and cried, where with frustration I banged dents into the fridge, where we lit candles, cuddled and curled up on the couch. More importantly, it was where we became a family, where we struggled with the years of trying to get pregnant, where we celebrated with great glee finally the news of the pregnancy and where we brought the twins home to three months ago.

So, it's difficult. And difficult on so many levels. When we talk to couples ready to be married, we teach them about leaving and cleaving, 2 very important lessons in the Biblical perspective of marriage. It just feels like moving into a home with any one set of parents is taking a step backward. Add on to that, the freedom that once was had and now, a somewhat precious commodity. When we moved home from Melbourne, we had to face the harsh reality of living under the same roof as our parents after having had a free reign. We had to fight curfews and parental expectations. It was one of the reasons why we decided to get married so soon after we moved back to Singapore. We couldn't get used to living under a watchful eye after so long. And now, after 6 years, it feels much worse. We're older, we have our own lifestyles, lifestyles that would clash with the way things have been done for the longest time in the household and it fills me with trepidation.

All this makes me hesitate. All this creates a sinking feeling in the pit of my belly. It makes me nauseous and in the most unreasonable and illogical of moments, makes me want to stop eating and stop breathing and just hide to make it all go away. It makes me feel homeless because our house will be rented out and I am living under someone else's roof. I've been told to occupy myself with the necessary practical aspects of moving. But my mind keeps drifting back to how I am going to pack the memories up and how I'm going to pack up how I've lived my life for the last 4.5 years. That's when I turn slightly catatonic and stare blindly at the things I have to do. All I want to do is cry and mourn for the loss of my home and the life I've built up here.

Packrat's asked me to look forward to the new chapter of our life. It's hard to do that when all the memories of what we're leaving behind swim in front of me blurring my vision. I take comfort in holding my children and knowing that I'm doing this for them and knowing that it is the right decision for them. But the non-mommy part of me is still finding it hard to see the silver lining, no matter how hard I squint.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 12:05

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Monday, September 24, 2007

What does it say about a society or an institution when

a) a job application comes to a stand still because the applicant only saw it fit to produce his tertiary qualifications and not every single graduation certificate since kindergarten?

b) it doesn't trust the state designated board of certification for a skill and demand that said trained person be put through all the paces while being observed by people much less qualified?

c) its job application form requires you to state not just your particulars but that of your spouse, your children, your father, your mother, your grandfather, your grandmother and also your pet hamster?

a. anal. b. pretentious and pompous, taking itself far too seriously. c. paranoid.

That pretty much sums it up.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 23:31

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Friday, September 21, 2007

The Unenlightened Society Part III- The Manage a trois

I really need to stop reading the Straits Times because everytime I do, my blood boils. I haven't had much chance to read it lately thanks to the combined effort of my twins. But I feel guilty when I don't because I spent the last 4 odd years berating students for not staying abreast with the news out there. But then again, when I do, this is what happens. Blog fodder.

So, apparently 7 in 10 people in Singapore are homophobic. That's what the article said. And that's just one of the things I have issue with. As someone schooled in research methods, even though it was never my strong suit, the article cited an NTU study that apparently sampled 1000 Singaporeans and that's where my gripe starts. Quote- "they were asked whether sex between two men or two women was 'plain wrong' and whether homosexuals or lesbians were 'disgusting'."

Trying to figure out what was the issue with this "sample" question isn't really rocket science. And in a court of law, these questions would be considered leading questions. How can a study with these sorts of questions be published in an international journal? Of course, I'd like to give the study the benefit of the doubt and blame it on ST who obviously had an agenda behind publishing and angling the issue this way.

Why oh why do we need to be reminded of how homophobic we are? And now, drawing in the religious angle into it? I'm a devout Christian and even though my faith has very strong views on homosexuality, I do not hate the gay community nor frown upon. So don't go blaming religions for the inherent discrimination the society has against them. Does that make me a heretic? Am I going to burn in hell? Well, let's see. One of the commandments that I have to live by is to love thy neighbour as thyself. So, with that, doesn't it mean we shouldn't condemn those different from us? Ok, yes, there are people out there that I despise and I'm guessing some out there would then accuse me of being hypocritical and I'm not proud of it, but I know that I do not categorically hate a group of people just because they are different.

Then, there was this other article that once again made me feel that I live in a small minded society and am surrounded by small minded people and no matter how I try, I cannot change the inherent small mindedness of the students I teach because their parents' and society's small mindedness is more than I, one person, can contend with. A lecturer was not given a public speaking license because he was going to talk about decriminalising homosexual sex. He wasn't going to talk about promoting homosexual sex. Just about making it not a crime. There is a difference here but it seems to be one that most choose not to see. It's not like he was going to stand on a soap box and tell Singapore to go have sex against the natural order of things (once again, one of those super loaded phrases). I have a friend who as part of her job description has to stand up on the world stage and get eggs (metaphorically speaking) thrown at her because of Singapore's human rights record and this is why we deserve eggs thrown at us, although not at her personally because she's my friend.

We are such a schizophrenic society that cannot decide what we want to be. Everything I learnt about the psychological maturation and struggles a child goes through to become a teenager and subsequently an adult, is happening to us as a society. One minute, our PM, in his pink shirt announces that we will tolerate the gay community and reading between the lines, enjoying the tourist dollar brought in by the gay tourist community. Then, in a blink, we have a health minister announcing that ALL the cases of HIV reported within a certain period of time were all due to a gay party held at the beach. One night blamed for the spike of hundreds of cases? Prolific much, this gay community.

And now this. I don't see the point of telling us how homophobic we are. Why? Are we supposed to stand around and clap and celebrate in our togetherness just because 70 % of us think the same way and if 70% of the population thinks that way, it must be the right way to think. And people ask us why we don't lurve Singapore. This is why

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 15:53

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The unenlightened society Part 2

Because the previous post took so long to put out, I had totally forgotten that I'd wanted to add in a 4th issue that annoyed the living daylights out of me. It was a letter in the forum 2 Sundays ago. A mother complaining about ads at a bus stop. This was the gist of the letter.

I HAVE noticed condoms being advertised at some bus stops.
I have also seen an ad for ovulation test kits outside Jelita Shopping Centre.
What kind of message are we sending to young people on our attitude towards sex?
Karen Alexandra Tan (Mrs)

My reaction to the letter was along the lines of WTF is she talking about? The message we are sending? It's that if you're going to have sex, use condoms for goodness sake. Only an ignoramous git would think that by putting condom ads at a bus stop, it would entice the young to go and have sex. Newsflash Lady, if the young people were going to have sex, they were going to have sex anyway, even without the condom ad at the bus stop. Perhaps, if they saw the ad on the way to having sex, they might stop and shell out 4 bucks or whatever for some condoms and end up protecting their own sexual health and by that, their own futures.

Similarly, ovulation test kits. This woman thinks that the existence of ovulation test kits would encourage more hapless and casual sex, especially among the young people. The thing about ovulation test kits is that it has to be done for a couple of days each cycle and done at a particular time of day. Now, anyone who has used the test kits to get pregnant or to not get pregnant knows that peeing on a stick or taking a saliva swab or whatever is VERY unromantic and VERY unspontaneous and the sex that follows is often planned and possibly a lot less enjoyable thanks to the planning that had to be done ahead of time. Now, what young person, who is often characterised as carefree, living in the moment and spontaneous is going to want to be saddled by testing herself every morning. And if the test shows that she is not ovulating the thought bubble she has is "Oh! I can go out and have sex today!" and then she leaves the house to trawl for someone to have sex with. Seriously?

I know that there is a possibility that some goon of a young person out there fits both stereotypes, looking at a condom ad and want to have sex and then going off to make sure that she or the girl he wants to have sex with is not ovulating, but what are the chances?

If anything I think it's a good idea that the ads are up. If nothing else, it creates awareness among those that need to be aware. It's the same reason why I think our ordained sex education syllabus is a load of crap. If you don't teach it to them, they're going to do it anyway. If you're not going to make it available to them, they're going to do it anyway. And that way, they get into a whole lot more trouble than if they were taught of the consequences and of contraception and if they were given the opportunity to actually get said contraception. I think even my mother, with values that stem from the Judeo Christian faith would disapprove of my thinking, but there is a very real reality out there that much of the society seems to ignore. Like the horses that draw carriages, they have blinders and only see what they want to see, ignoring the reality that requires sex education, the availability of contraceptive information and even possibly a baby drop centre.

But no, our society is so petrified that if any of these things were made available, we'd have a sociological crisis on our hands, we'd have sex crazed young people bonking in every street corner with the full knowledge that if their condom, which they knew to use did burst, they could drop off the accidental spoils of their loins at the baby drop centres. So, we choose the path of blind faith and ignorance where we have possibly the same number of sex crazed young people bonking in stairwells, at the back of buses and in seedy hotels and then either dropping off like flies because they've contracted some disease or leaving the accidental spoils of their loins in stairwells, rubbish chutes or lockers to die a horrific death moments after they were born.

Unlike Mrs Karen Alexandra Tan with the wannabe snooty name, I much prefer the former scenario. Of course, I would much prefer that my children not be having sex till they were well and ready for it; if they chose to be foolish in their youth, I would much rather that they didn't spend the rest of their lives being punished in one way or other for one moment of folly. It's very sad to realise that so many in Singapore choose to live with the mentality that pretending that there isn't a problem will translate into a reality where such a problem doesn't exist.

Once again, I only have one word- Seriously?

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 10:25

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Living in the 1920s

This post took me 10 days to write. I started it on 31 August and have only just completed it. It's not because it's dissertation material or something, it's just a reflection of how my days are right now.


I've always known that we live in a rather schizophrenic society. One that prides itself in being at the forefront of everything and very cutting edge but at the same time, one that prides itself in being still very rooted in its culture and traditional. I don't think we've found a happy balance yet. Even though on the surface, we're all Western educated and supposedly so influenced by the decadent West that the government sees it as a cause for concern, I think deep down, on many levels, many aren't as enlightened as would be expected when a society is influenced by the Evil West.

It's a sad state of affairs when we claim to be modern and compare ourselves to first world nations when it's only economically that we are on par. All else, we're as enlightened as a mushroom, unfortunately. In the recent weeks, I've come to realise just how unenlightened the general Singaporean society is.

1. I knew Takashimaya had a great nursing room, with impressive, facilities for young mothers and young children. So, one day, I decided to use the rooms there to express since I have an internal milk clock that goes off every 3 hours or so and I have no choice but to obey it and seek relief. Anyway, on my way in, I was fixated on just wanting to express and had no eyes for anything else. On my way out, that was a different story. I looked around to see what the nursery had, for future reference and I chanced upon this sign on the door of the nursing room that I had just stepped out of.
wrong era!
Ok, I understand there are issues of modesty seeing that there are exposed breasts in the vicinity but seriously, what about the daddies? Are they banished to the men's section to look at boring belts, shoes and wallets while their wives express or feed their young? What about for mothers like me? Mothers of multiples. When I used to feed both at the same time, it was humanly impossible to do it alone. I would need Packrat's help to latch one of the bubs on. Now how would I do that if he was barred from the nursing room? And as a result, if I could only feed one, what would happen to the other? I'd probably hear him or her crying all the way from the men's department where the poor frazzled father would be trying without success to calm a screaming hungry baby. I am also guessing if I tried to sneak Packrat in, the authorities wouldn't be accomodating at all because rules are rules. Even if those rules belonged in a totally different era, not the current one where fathers are supposed to be involved, unshy around exposed breasts and ready to jump in and help. Ok, so maybe there are mothers who are shy about being seen by others, especially other men but if these mothers were discreet about the nursing and these fathers of other babies weren't there to stare pointedly at other women's breasts, what's the issue?

2. The Labour wards in hospitals.
The rule in Singapore hospitals is that only the husbands are allowed in the labour wards. When I was there and was super hungry and begged my bro to bring me lunch, the nurses were about to bolt all the doors shut to prevent him from coming in even though I said it was ok. Their reason was there were other women labouring and it was not nice for them. That sounded extremely ludicrous to me since it wasn't as if they were labouring in the hallways for all and sundry to see.

That stupid rule also assumes that the husband is going to be there for his wife. I can think of so many scenarios where the husband may not be there:
a) The husband may be away. When the baby is born is anyone's guess and an estimated due date is just that, an estimate.
b) The husband may be squeamish and not be able to stand the pain, the gore, the blood, the screaming, everything.
c) There may be no husband. It's an antiquated assumption to always expect that there's a husband- one of the other areas where Singapore is stubbornly far behind.

And in all these cases, I think it's unfair that the labouring mother has to do it alone. She can't have her mother, her best friend or whoever she wants as a birth coach. I think some enlightened hospitals allow doulas but only some doctors are ok with them. Once again, cobwebs, all over the place.

3) The general mentality.
I suspect it's my own fault this one, having surrounded myself with like-minded people who believed that a woman could have her own life and it didn't need to revolve around her husband. There is a difference between involve and revolve. One allows for a relationship as well as space to be one's own person and the other requires the total engulfing of one's life into the partner's. I don't agree with the latter but I have come to realise that even among us, the supposedly educated elite , the mindset is still somewhat back-dated and traditional. I'd never imagine that my peers would insist that their wives stay at home so that they can be met at the door (and this isn't some "meet at the door in nothing but saran wrap fantasy"), that they must not come home to an empty house and there had to be a hot meal awaiting their return. Furthermore, there also seems to be the prevailing mentality that even if a wife were to work, their work comes secondary to taking care of the husband. The word 'neglect' seemed to be tossed around a fair bit in the conversation that led me to these conclusions. A grown man, capable of defending his country whining about how he has been neglected just because he returns to a home before his wife and doesn't know how to be the one to cook dinner for himself and his tired wife. These are the men who expect their wives to pack for them when they go off on business trips and these are the men that have no idea where the salt in the kitchen is; just because the kitchen is the wife's domain.

I'm not sure why it doesn't dawn upon the husband that these precious hours before his wife returns could be used to do his own thing. Packrat used to love the fact that on certain days, he'd come home from work earlier than I did and those were his most gleeful days because he could veg out in front of the tv and watch stuff I scoff or barf at or he could go online and WoW without his wife threatening to throw out his laptop or pull the plug or something drastic like that, just to get his attention.

So my conclusion is we aren't the rule, rather, we are the exception to the rule in the way we think. The rest of Singapore doesn't think like my friends and I, because if they did, signs banning fathers from nursing rooms, family or non-spousal support from delivery suites and antiquated gender expectations wouldn't exist so predominantly.

In some ways, I'm shocked but I think deep down inside, I always knew that these mindsets existed and that was why both Packrat and I yearned to live in some other first world nation.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 17:16

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Frustrated incorporated

I desperately want to blog but have no time. Everytime I'm in front of the computer, one hand or both hands are busy doing baby related stuff so it's hard to post anything of consequence and I miss it! I miss writing! Argh! Been tempted to take the laptop out to Starbucks just so that I can blog in peace.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 21:48

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" Far in the stillness, a cat languishes loudly"